Terry Myers might not be the next Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, but martial arts movie fans in the Far East should soon see the Annapolis kung fu master on the silver screen.
Myers went to the People's Republic of China to study with and coach the Chinese national professional team. He would up appearing in two martial arts films made for theAsian market before returning home to Annapolis at the end of last month.
Although he hasn't made it as a movie star, Myers has become a known commodity in the Asian film market and a respected figure in the Chinese martial arts community.
His movie experience this past summer consisted of working as a stunt man on a movie for the Asian market, "The Chinese Hero," and he took part in a documentary on tai chi,the slow-motion exercise art that also comes from China.
Admitting that he still prefers the martial to the dramatic arts, Myers notedthat Norris' initial movie success helped to publicize his teaching,to the point where each activity supported the other.
"I played avillain in a movie in 1986," said Myers of his first film. An experienced amateur performer, he said that it is a convention in popular Chinese films to have Western villains.
"At the end of the movie I accidentally blow myself up shooting up a factory when I hit some explosive," Myers said.
He said that the Chinese style of filmmaking tends to be very basic, quick and streamlined.
"They generally don't have a large enough budget for the kind of careful filmmaking thatmovies have in the United States, and the production staff gets paidno matter what, because the studios are government-owned.
"So there's not as much incentive to improve. People make movies, and then they go home, eat and sleep."
Myers prefers a different approach.
"I take pride in what I do," he said. "Whether it takes 20 or 30 takes to get it right, that's what I have to do."
It got to the point, Myers said, where the American director had to personally supervise nearly every aspect of "The Chinese Hero," from resetting the lights to even acting as a stunt man himself."
But Myers explained thatmovies were really only part of his most recent sojourn to China. Hedescribed his experiences as "a lot of fun. There were times that were very difficult, a lot of hard work, but very enjoyable."
Duringhis trip, Myers taught kung fu classes himself. He was also the first American to be certified by the Chinese as an international judge and coach.
"I went there to study martial arts and to take part in competitions. The people I met in 1986 (during his first visit) were especially helpful in this regard. I also worked out with the Beijingwu shu team, who were the national champions in China for a number of years, at the sports center that had been built for the Asian Olympics."
He explained that wu shu is the original name for the style.
"It means 'war art'" he said. "Kung fu -- which has become the Western name for the art -- means 'good skill.'
"Anyone who has achieved a measure of ability in something could be said to have kung fu in that skill."
Now back in Annapolis, where he has lived since 1987, Myers has resumed his teaching duties as the "shur-fu," or head, of the Tian Tan Health and Martial Arts Center on Hudson Road near the National Guard Armory.
Myers first developed his interest in themartial arts as a child in Indiana, thanks to his grandfather, who practiced judo. He later moved on to the Japanese style of karate and the Korean style, known as tae kwan do and was also active in community and school theater groups.
He achieved black belt status in both styles. Looking for a more philosophical grounding in the martial arts, he went to China, the place where most authorities agree the martial arts first developed.
"It was a matter of self-growth, of learning, and because there's so much to learn," Myers said. "I believe in sticking to one thing for a good amount of time to get a good set of basics.
"In this country it is possible to get the basics in karate and tae kwan do, but there are very high-level teachers who can go beyond the basics. This includes the Chinese martial arts. So I had to seek out teachers throughout the United States when I was here, and once I got to a certain level where I didn't feel I could learn anymore, I went to China."
On a personal level, Myers said his reception in China each time was mixed but quite friendly.
"Many people viewed it as something very good, somebody who was dedicated enoughto come all that way to learn the art. There are people on the Beijing team who are very dedicated to their art and would like to spread it all over the world. They feel that things would be a lot better ifeveryone would study wu shu. So when I was there, they welcomed me, and treated me like their 'wu shu brother' -- a fellow student of theart."
During one competition, Myers won a special award, performed at televised exhibitions, and was interviewed by the Chinese media
He added that there were also "many people who couldn't care less,and there were people who wondered why I was coming from such a great country as America to their country to study martial arts."
Mostpeople who are active martial artists in China, Myers said, tend to move on to a variety of low-level professions, once they have become too old for active competition.
The typical school tends to be an informal set-up in a public park.